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Don GardnerColor
Don Gardner is an ag and natural-resources agent for the University of Georgias Glynn County Extension. - photo by File photo

It’s summer, and one thing that concerns beachgoers is bacterial counts in the water.

Nobody wants to swim in raw sewage, but things are getting a bit extreme. Fish poop in the ocean and a bear poops in the woods. Last week, I was contacted by someone who was scheduled to ride a horse on a St. Simons Island beach. She was looking for someone with a four-wheeler and a scoop who could run poop patrol behind the group. Either that or each horse would have to wear a bag to catch it at the source, like the carriage horses in Savannah.

I wonder what they do with the wild horses on Cumberland Island? Are they potty trained? I guess not, because horses don’t have thumbs — they can’t grasp the toilet paper. This brought to my very fertile mind my best 4-H story. It happened at the Jekyll Marine Resources Camp on the south end of Jekyll Island way back in 2006. No, not the K-Bar knife, M16-and-camo kind of Marine — the water-environment kind of marine, like marinas-and-estuaries kind of marine.

One morning, I asked a female chaperone across the table from me if she slept well. She then recounted that wanted to see if the sea turtles were coming up to nest on the beach and started off at about 2 a.m. across the boardwalk that connects the camp with the beach by spanning the dunes field. About halfway across in the middle of the dunes, out of sight of the camp and the beach, she heard a thump-thump-thump of running feet on her boardwalk. It was too dark to see well, but it looked like a black figure was running toward her.

The thump-thump-thump got louder. She backed off to the side of the railing, hoping the figure would pass her by, and it did. The first running man, dressed in black, didn’t say a thing, but the second one on his tail growled “US Navy SEALs, ma’am” as he passed.

I later learned from the 4-H camp director that she understood SEALs would sometimes pass through the 4-H camp on training. Apparently, the route called for swimming across the sound from the north end of Cumberland Island to the south end of Jekyll Island and then back to Kings Bay by routes known only to the SEALs.  

“Well, isn’t that dangerous? What happens if they encounter sharks on their swim?”  

“I expect that would just leave a dark spot of poo in the water. As soon as a shark realizes it is up against a Navy SEAL, it evacuates its colon and then evacuates the area.”

If a SEAL will do that to a shark, I wonder what effect a boomer coming back from patrol has on sharks. I wonder if the Department of Natural Resources will require poo bags on sharks in Camden County waters. I mean, poo is poo.  

People can be really picky about poo. I was at a DNR Lowcountry-boil fundraiser several years ago, and this woman who was way overdressed for a Lowcountry boil and drove a car way too expensive and useless to put off pavement near a beach and saltwater — clearly a new transplant and definitely not a coastal bone in her body — was loudly raising sand and blessing out one of the DNR staff.

It seems the shrimp had not been deveined. Deveining is the euphemism for opening up the alimentary tract and washing out what the shrimp ate before you ate the shrimp. Apparently, this was a crime right up there with capital murder for people obsessed with poo. She was demanding her donation back. Why all the nerve, pouring sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes and shrimp together on a table. And paper plates! And no silver! Eating with one’s fingers!! And non-deveined shrimp all mixed in! Why, what sort of cave people are we?

We were the sort of cave people who were happy to see her improve a heck of a good party by leaving it. Clearly, her poo didn’t stink.

I am not saying there is not a good case for sanitation and sewage-treatment plants; there most definitely is. But can we please get a grip? I had a lady ask me about organic gardening, and we started talking about nitrogen and carbon sources. She quickly let me know that there was no way she was going to eat anything that grew in ground that had poo mixed into it. Well, just exactly what does she think organics and recycling is all about? What does she think a manure spreader is for? How can people that disconnected from reality make good decisions about the environment?

Clearly, they don’t know $&*%!

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